BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — A retired Aurora Police Command Officer knows what it’s like to respond to an active shooter incident. Michael Dailey was a lieutenant with APD, and co-incident commander during the Aurora theater shooting in 2012. He now travels the country, teaching other law enforcement agencies and first responders lessons learned.
“I can tell you from personal experience when responding to something like that, first off, when the call comes out, it seems almost surreal. You’ve trained for it, you think you’re ready for it. But when it comes out, it’s surreal,” Dailey said.
He said the scene in Boulder was reminiscent of the night he responded to the Century 16 Theater. “There is a little bit of fear involved. I have to really credit the men and women that went into that store in search of the suspect,” he said.
He said an active shooter scene is chaotic, but officers are trained to handle these kinds of situations.
“We train our officers to respond to the scene, seek out the threat, neutralize the threat so they can begin giving aid to any victims inside that scene. Once the suspect is neutralized, shooting has stopped, then they would turn immediately to any victims that were in there,” Dailey said.
“We have learned over the years our active shooting incidents in the United States have become more sophisticated. Columbine, they had improvised explosive devices. Aurora, he had a gas canister he tossed into the crowd. He also had his apartment booby trapped, hoping to kill first responders there. There’s been other incidents around the country, they are becoming more sophisticated on their attack. The threat of an ambush is very likely,” he said.
Since the theater attack, Dailey and a team of first responders have gone around the country presenting their scenario.
“Talking about the difficulties we had, issues we ran into that night, in hopes of imparting some ‘don’t do this wisdom’ to other law enforcement agencies and their first responder partners as well, fire and EMS in hopes when it’s their turn, they will keep that in mind and do it better,” Dailey said.
He said communication is key, as is protecting fire and medical personnel.
“There’s been a whole movement called “rescue task force” that teams law enforcement with EMS folks to get them in there, under guard, so they can start treating them from the scene as soon as possible. What we are finding is if we can’t get fire in safely, police have to evacuate victims to a certain point and fire can take over,” Dailey said.
He said once the scene is secure, the crime scene investigation could take days. “They start doing that forensic work on scene that will tie that suspect back to that scene,” he said.
There was one difference between Aurora and Boulder: A Boulder police officer was killed responding to the incident.
“You have to walk in that individual’s shoes, not just a mile to appreciate the life of a law enforcement officer in America today. They have been under attack since summer on social issues. Yet these individuals, men and women are willing to run into that store. They are willing to give their lives for other people. That is an amazing set of individuals. Absolutely heroic many of them will go home tonight and hug their families and they’re going to have nightmares for a year. It’s sad. First responders become victims, just like the folks in the store today. It’s sad. “